The scores started coming in a flurry, except for the one Jeff Emery was waiting to see posted.
The Wando golf coach already knew his team had overcome a four-shot deficit to St. James in Sunday's final round of the High School Invitational. Left unresolved was whether anyone had rallied from even farther behind -- in particular reigning state AAAA champion Lexington.
Three Lexington numbers were on the board, but Karlee Vardas' score went lagging for several minutes.
"It came in so darn late," Emery said. "It's always that last score that gets you."
Not on this occasion, though. Vardas came up short of Lexington's magic number, leaving Wando atop the chart in a truly nail-biter victory at The Sanctuary at Cat Island.
With Kate Harper surging to the individual title and a strong bounceback from No.3 Rachel Rich, Wando's score of 235 gave the Warriors a two-day total of 469 -- a single stroke better than St. James. Lexington matched Wando's 235 for the day's best total, but finished another five shots back.
"It's monumental for our program," Emery said. "We've been competitive, but not competitive on the level that we're at now. We have a strong leader in Kate and some other girls around her that can step up and play good golf all the time."
Harper didn't make a birdie for Sunday's first 14 holes, then notched two in the final hour that proved to be the difference in a three-player tussle with Smith Knaffle of St. James and Victoria Huskey of Traveler's Rest.
Harper finished with a 1-over-par 73, leaving her at even-par 144 and two shots better than both Huskey (71) and Knaffle (75).
"I didn't play as well as (Saturday's 69), that's for sure," said Harper. "But I was happy with how I finished. That was good."
It could have been less stressful, but Harper left "at least six" putts that ran out of steam inches shy of dropping into the cup. Despite seeing the same result repeatedly, she had a difficult time convincing herself to give her stroke a little more juice.
"I was just kind of babying it," said Harper, who also won the Beth Daniel Junior Azalea last month.
She finally found the touch on a 6-foot birdie at the par-5 15th, breaking a deadlock with Huskey for the lead. Knaffle birdied No.16 to also stand one back, but Harper struck again with a 7-foot birdie at the par-4 17th.
"Kate really stepped up and was a leader this weekend," Emery said. "When she gets going, the other girls feed off it. When they hear news that she's playing well, they tend to play well too."
In the end, though, Rich's performance might have held the key. After opening with an 89 on Saturday, the eighth-grader largely cleaned up the big numbers and found three birdies to post a Sunday 80.
"We're very proud of her bouncing back," Emery said. "She didn't pout, didn't quit. She came back and fired a good score."
St. James, meantime, was left to ponder where they could have saved the crucial stroke. Steely Hays (81) and Kelli Smith (84) each had a double bogey in their last three holes, while Jordan White struggled to an 87.
"I don't know if there is a magic formula for dealing with it," Sharks coach Kenn Francis [cq] said.
"I've always said putting is the great equalizer. If the putts aren't going down, they add up real quick. I saw several three-putts today, and golf's not meant to be three-putted."
WSCGA Junior Foundation High School Invitational
At Sanctuary at Cat Island
Wando 469, St. James 470, Lexington 475, Travelers Rest 478, Easley 482, Boiling Springs 484, Fort Dorchester 495, Bluffton 499, South Aiken 509, Mauldin 509, Greenville 525, Wren 526, White Knoll 531, Hilton Head Island 535, Bishop England 557
Top 10 Individuals
1. Kate Harper, Wando 69-73—142
T2. Victoria Huskey, Travelers Rest 73-71—144
T2. Smith Knaffle, St. James 69-75—144
4. Carly Lyvers, St. Joseph's 72-74—146
T5. Bayleee Evans, Lancaster 77-71—148
T5. Anna Chanthaphaeng, Boiling Springs 75-73—148
7. Gracyn Burgess, Lexington 77-72—149
8. Jensen Castle, White Knoll 75-75—150
T9. Savannah Goodman, Easley 81-73—154
T9. Peyton Gillespie, Christ Church 78-76—154
Others of note
T11. Kathryn Thorne, Bluffton 78-77—155
T15. Sophie Burnett, Bluffton 78-79—157
T17. Meredith Wipper, Hilton Head Island 79-79—158
T47. Emma Hayward, Hilton Head Island 91-89—180
54. Molly Minasi, Bluffton 92-95—187
T61. Megan Weldy, Hilton Head Island 106-91—197
T61. Jamie Hubbard, HHCA 92-105—197
64. Brooke Larson, Bluffton 94-105—199
65. Madeline Prince, Hilton Head Island 106-96—202
70. Morgan Caramello, Hilton Head Island 115-100—215